by Chris Hatch
For the majority, Crushed Beaks will be one of those bands that, from time to time, appear seemingly out of nowhere – fully formed and brimming with ideas. But their debut album, 2015’s Scatter, and accompanying live performances were the first signal shots that heralded Crushed Beaks as a band with masses of potential.
While the frenetic, rough-around-the-edges DNA of that first album still runs through The Other Room, they have traded some of the jagged, poppy elements for a sound that is more focused, direct and purposeful.
After locking himself away in almost monastic exile – the album was written in a windowless, concrete room whose only portal to the outside world was a huge metal door – main songwriter and frontman, Matt Poile, teamed up with bassist Scott Bowley and drummer Tim Watkins and began the process of working out how to flesh out the songs and make them work as a three-piece.
The album was recorded in analogue-haven, The Nave, with Eagulls’ cohort, Matt Peel, at the helm, and sonically it is swaddled in the same grunge-revival sound that The Cribs dove head first into on their last couple of albums. But it also thrashes around between chugging bouts of The Twilight Sad-style motorik krautrock, swathes of psych-rock, and slicing guitar tones that are drenched in skin melting effect – think Steve Albini clashing head on with Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound.
Driving force, Poile, now seems more confident and tackles bigger issues head on – there’s a hint of IDLES frontman Joe Talbot in his attitude and delivery, but studies the failings and struggles of his own inter-personal relationships, and those of the people around him. It’s a concept that soaring, pulsating album opener, Sky Burial, tackles with its refrain ‘Everything’s changed/And it is changing still’’ – a sentiment strung throughout the album.
The are times when Crushed Beaks give the songs chance to breathe and grow, both lyrically and musically – Right Machine becomes an expansive slow burner, while lead single, Honesty Box, has a hypnotic quality to its chorus as Poile ponders, ‘I got ahead of myself, it’s only a dream that I had.’ But even in these moments, there’s no loss of momentum, and Poile’s Damon Albarn-like, everyman baritone keeps things focused.
On The Other Room, Crushed Beaks have created an album that fulfils that difficult task of being both instant and layered, but the hooks and themes grow and envelope you over time. It’s an album that feels like it speaks both to and for a lot of people, and beneath its abrasive, outer shell is a heart that thumps defiantly in the face of the state of the world right now.
Secret Meeting score: 88